Top Trails Sacramento  by Steven L. Evans

Top Trails Sacramento Guide Book

by Steven L. Evans (Wilderness Press)
Top Trails Sacramento  by Steven L. Evans
Sacramento, California’s bustling capital, is the gateway to a world of diverse trails. Go bird-watching in wetlands at Cosumnes River Preserve, explore a wild canyon in Cache Creek Wilderness, hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, or cycle the famed American River Parkway. In this essential guide, you’ll find the best trails in the Great Valley, Coast Range, Sierra Foothills, and the Sierra Nevada in a handy, informative format. Here at your fingertips are 43 of the region’s “must-do” trails, from 1 to 10 miles. Each hike includes: clear and concise directions to the trailhead; a detailed two-color route map; “don’t get lost” trail milestones; and expert trail commentary.

© 2008 Steven L Evans/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Top Trails Sacramento" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 42.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 42.

This is one of the best all-around hikes in the Auburn State Recreation Area, which provides outdoor recreation for more than a million visitors annually. The well-graded route includes segments of the Western States National Recreation Trail and descends 1100 feet down American Canyon, which contains a small tributary of the Middle Fork American River. American Canyon’s northeast facing slopes are clothed in a dense oak forest, and the canyon bottom is covered with lush riparian vegetation. This almost tropical habitat contrasts sharply with the much drier and brushy southwest-facing slopes found later in the hike. Alert visitors may observe examples of our Gold Rush heritage. Hikers will also enjoy the canyon’s inner gorge, which is filled with scenic cascades and waterfalls as they make their way to the Middle Fork, a worthy destination in its own right.
Georgetown, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.74
When the cold days of winter have closed in and the holiday excesses have you feeling slothful, there is no better cure than climbing to the top of Blue Ridge to take in the outstanding views of the Coast Range and California’s latest Wild & Scenic River—Cache Creek. Cache Creek was designated a California Wild & Scenic River by the state legislature in 2005, and is one of 12 Wild & Scenic Rivers, which are protected by law from new dam development. Built by volunteers, this challenging trail provides access to public lands that stretch along Blue Ridge south to Berryessa Peak. Tuleyome, a Yolo County-based conservation group, has recently acquired land in order to increase public access to this little-visited area, with the ultimate goal of designating much of the ridge as a federally protected wilderness.
Guinda, CA - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 5.56
The Bobelaine Audubon Sanctuary on the Feather River provides a unique opportunity to explore the Central Valley’s jungle-like riparian habitat. Maintained by the Sacramento Audubon Society, the 430–acre sanctuary has an extensive loop-trail system kept cleared by mowers so bird-watchers and hikers can make their way through the usually impenetrable forest to observe and appreciate the rich variety of wildlife that depends on this riverside habitat.
Nicolaus, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.3
Just a few years ago, this trail was located on the privately owned Payne Ranch, which blocked public access to much of the existing public land to the south and east encompassing the wild canyon of Cache Creek. But a determined effort by the BLM to acquire the 12,769-acre ranch resulted in expansion of the Cache Creek Natural Area to more than 70,000 acres. The trail follows the ridgetop that creates the boundary between the former Payne Ranch and the Cache Creek Wilderness, which was designated in 2006. From the ridge, hikers enjoy frequent views of sinuous Cache Creek, which was added to the California Wild & Scenic Rivers System in 2005. The trail makes its way through classic low-elevation Coast Range habitat, including blue oak woodlands, grasslands, and chaparral on serpentine-based soils. The possibility of viewing wildlife is high, since this area is home to one of the largest free-roaming tule elk herds in California, as well as one of the largest wintering populations of bald eagles. Except for some seasonal stock ponds, this ridgetop trail is dry for most of its length, so be sure to bring plenty of water.
Lower Lake, CA - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 9.9
The proposed Caples Creek Wilderness is relatively small in comparison to the Mokelumne Wilderness to the south and the Desolation Wilderness to the north, but its glaciated topography, rugged river canyons, old-growth forests, and extensive trail system provide plenty of opportunities for true wilderness solitude. The trail system is easily accessible from multiple trailheads off Hwy 50 and Hwy 88. This hike is accessed from Hwy 50 and features a loop that makes a good long day hike or two- to three-day backpack trip. There are many streamside and meadow campsites to choose from, providing a great opportunity to base camp and explore. Anglers can fish for trout in both Caples Creek and the Silver Fork, and all visitors will enjoy the sparkling cascades of both streams.
Kyburz, CA - Backpacking,Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 8.6
This is an excellent walk for families with children. It packs a lot of scenery into a short, easy hike along the beautiful North Fork American River, with pretty Codfish Falls as the destination. The spring wildflower display is wonderful, and the languid pools of the North Fork invite you to cool off from the summer heat. It’s a perfect half-day trip just a short drive from Sacramento.
Applegate, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.8
This is the signature hike for residents of Davis and others who live in the Putah Creek watershed. People looking for an easy round-trip ramble with the family that is less than 2.0 miles long with only a 300-foot elevation gain may go out and back to the old homestead site in the Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve, which is owned and managed by the University of California. But those looking for more of a physical challenge can go beyond the reserve to complete a demanding loop nearly 5.0 miles in length that climbs more than 1200 feet to the top of Blue Ridge. Along the way, hikers who brave the more challenging loop option will enjoy views of Berryessa Reservoir and much of the Coast Range.
Winters, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.9
The South Fork American River in the Sierra foothills south of Placerville is one of California’s most popular white-water rivers. The South Fork is where gold was discovered by Europeans in 1849, so the river is also rich in Gold Rush history. Not so long ago, public access along the South Fork was quite limited. The American River Conservancy and the BLM are acquiring land for public recreation and habitat purposes along the river. This easy loop trail, in the recently acquired Cronan Ranch Regional Trails Park, provides a nice ramble through oak and riparian woodlands and foothill grasslands, as well as direct access to the South Fork American River.
Pilot Hill, CA - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 4.9 miles
Public areas and trails in the nearby Sacramento– San Joaquin Delta are few and far between. The undeveloped Delta Meadows State Park and the adjacent historic Chinese town of Locke offer a great opportunity to take a scenic drive through the west’s largest estuary, enjoy some local history, and get a glimpse of the natural Delta as it existed before it was leveed and drained.
Walnut Grove, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.44
The Effie Yeaw Nature Center and its adjacent Natural Area have a network of short interpretive trails perfect for families to explore and learn about the American River ecosystem, the life of the Nisenan Indians who formerly lived along the river, and the advent of gold mining that transformed the landscape and eventually led to the establishment of the American River Parkway. Although the trails are short and located in a relatively confined area, there is no better place to observe wildlife on a winter day. You may see deer and coyotes, and numerous avian species, including wild turkeys, great blue herons, kingfishers, acorn woodpeckers, and Cooper’s hawks. By following different segments of the Observation, Riverview History, and Discovery interpretive trails, you can pretty much circumnavigate the entire natural area within about a mile, experience the many habitats of the Parkway, observe the river and a wetland, and start and end at the Nature Center itself so you can enjoy its exhibits and wildlife displays.
Carmichael, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1
Visiting Empire Mine State Park is almost like a stroll back through time. Many of the mine buildings and equipment remain, as well as the palatial grounds and extensive rose garden of the mine’s former owner. You can easily spend much of the day simply visiting the mine’s infrastructure, including the mouth of the mine’s ominous 5000-foot-deep shaft, but the park also boasts an extensive trail system, with a series of loops that feature old tailings piles, abandoned mine shafts, stamp-mill foundations, and a pleasant walk through a mixed oak and conifer forest. This is an ideal family outing, offering a wide variety of walking options and a fun and educational glimpse of California’s mining history.
Grass Valley, CA - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 4.47
Gibson Ranch provides a regional park experience for residents of the growing suburbs of northeastern Sacramento County and southeastern Placer County. The park was established to preserve a slice of the county’s agrarian heritage, which is fast disappearing under suburban pavement. School children visit to learn about farm life, Civil War reenactors stage historic battles, and equestrians favor the park’s extensive road and trail system. The 300-acre park also includes a large lake, an extensive wetland, and more than a mile of the Dry Creek Parkway. Hikers have several options, including the nearly 3.0-milelong Park Loop, which circumnavigates the park’s boundary; the 2.0 mile out-and-back stroll along Dry Creek; and a short stroll around scenic Gibson Lake. This description focuses on the Park Loop. The many short and level walking options, water attractions, and livestock make this a great destination for families with young children.
North Highlands, CA - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 2.86
This hike showcases two scenic lakes—Granite and Hidden—that offer good destinations for a day hike or an easy overnight backpack trip. Or make it a loop hike and add a third and larger lake—Silver—to the tour, as well as some additional miles. Campgrounds and three resorts around Silver Lake offer excellent base-camp opportunities to explore this trail and other routes to the adjacent Mokelumne Wilderness.
Kyburz, CA - Hiking,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 7
The Grouse Lakes area is truly Sacramento’s “land-o-the-lakes.” This long but rewarding loop hike will bring you within view of more than fifteen lakes of all sizes, and to the shores of seven of the lakes. Whether you are to swim, stalk wily trout, or watch a sunset over an alpine lake, this is the place to be. Despite its long history of public use, much of the area is privately owned, so please respect property rights. The old network of jeep roads that formerly connected the lakes has been closed to motor vehicle use, creating a wonderful area to explore by foot, bike, or horse.
Emigrant Gap, CA - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 10.1
Sacramentans desiring to view one of the most scenic waterfalls in the Sierra Nevada need only drive a short distance up Hwy 50 and hike 1.5 miles to visit spectacular Horsetail Falls. Easily one of the top 10 waterfalls in California, Horsetail competes with the falls of Yosemite Valley when it comes to scenic grandeur. Unfortunately, it also competes with Yosemite Valley in terms of crowds and parking fees. But its proximity to Sacramento and its easy access are hard to beat. Even if you don’t make it all the way to the base of the falls, the cascades on lower Pyramid Creek make for a fine family outing.
Twin Bridges, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
The Great Valley has lost 99 percent of its native grasslands. What hasn’t been tilled for agriculture or paved for development has been overwhelmed by non-native grass species. Public opportunities to view the Valley’s few remaining open grasslands are limited. The Howard Ranch Trail, which begins in Rancho Seco Park, provides perhaps one of the best opportunities to visit the Great Valley grassland (as transformed as it is by exotic grasses) and vernal pool ecosystem. The Nature Conservancy purchased the ranch in 1999 from the heirs of Charles Howard (of Seabiscuit fame) and then resold it to a local rancher while retaining conservation easements. The California Conservation Corps constructed the trail, which is maintained by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). SMUD also manages the adjacent Rancho Seco Park. The trail offers nice views of Rancho Seco Lake and provides access to the open, rolling grasslands at the base of the Sierra foothills. It circles a large area of vernal pools—shallow pools that provide important seasonal wetland habitat and a gorgeous display of spring wildflowers.
Clay, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.83
Everyone’s favorite swimming river in the summer, the South Yuba River also offers colorful springtime wildflowers and autumnal foliage as well. This trail passes by some ideal semi-developed campsites (with pit toilets and picnic tables) along the South Yuba, and the Humbug Creek segment features a dramatic waterfall that has carved its way through a bedrock slot. Add the facts that the entire area is rich in Gold Rush history and its trails are accessible nearly year-round, and the South Yuba River and Humbug Trails pretty much cover all bets.
Lake City, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.82
The Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail is a popular 31mile paved bicycle and pedestrian route that begins at Beals Point in the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area and follows the American River Parkway eastward to Discovery Park, at the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers. For those who prefer a more intimate introduction to the trail and the parkway, this is one of several sections of the trail suitable for exploring on foot. This section of the Parkway has reciprocal trails on the north and south sides of the river, which allows for a 4.2 mile loop along the river and through its wildlife-rich riparian forest.
Sacramento, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.2
Lake Margaret is tucked away in a heavily forested glaciated valley pocked with ponds and small lakes and studded with granite rock formations. Although a short hike from Hwy 88, this subalpine jewel offers surprising seclusion. The up-and-down topography of the country also requires a bit more effort than implied by the short trail length depicted on the maps. Surrounded by granite ramparts, Lake Margaret offers a great opportunity to base camp and explore a virtually untracked portion of the Caples Creek Proposed Wilderness.
Kyburz, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.7
Scenic Lake Natoma is the focus of this paved loop trail, and it offers a number of options for exploration by foot, bike, or even kayak. The end points of the loop have easy access to light rail public transportation, which means you can leave your car at home. It also means that you can do half the loop and make your way back to your starting point via light rail. Wildlife abounds in the marshes and oak woodlands along the loop, which also provides glimpses of Gold Rush history.
Fair Oaks, CA - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 10.3